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The Sekeping Projects, April 2012

A conversation with Yvonne Yoong from The New Straits Times

What is the concept and mission behind your “Sekeping” projects?

I think the underlying philosophy for the “Sekeping” projects is really about the idea of doing things simply and without fuss. It is to imagine new possibilities of building on difficult terrains or sites with long histories or ordinary houses in ordinary neighbourhoods. It is also about extending the influence of our projects beyond its physical boundaries and to contribute itself to a wider neighbourhood.

Tell us about your first “Sekeping” project. What is the concept surrounding it and the challenges you faced in designing this?

The first “Sekeping” is Sekeping Serendah that started as my own weekend retreat in the forest of Serendah. It was primarily to demonstrate that we can build and live harmoniously with the land. It was also to demonstrate that we can build on very steep forested land without the need to destroy too much. Sekeping Serendah was built with the philosophy that if we treat the land gently, the land will in turn, take care of us. It is just a modern take and extension of our “Orang Asli” neighbour’s house.

What is the concept behind your next-to-be-designed “Sekeping” project?

I am planning one more “Sekeping” project in the village of Penestenan in Ubud, Bali. The concept behind it is a “non building” whereby the rooms and other functions of a typical house happen on a colonnaded corridor.

We’ve noticed that you have started “growing” the “Sekeping” projects on a regional basis. Would you be taking this to on a global level?

I don’t think this will be growing on any basis...! We designed some of these “Sekeping” projects to test ideas and to push design boundaries.

Which of the “Sekeping” projects is your favourite? Why?

I do not have any favourites. They are all my babies and I love them all equally.

If there were no constraints in budget, geographical location, timing, manpower or materials… If all these were not an issue, what would your dream “Sekeping” project be and why?

The “Sekeping” projects will exactly be the same. I have tried not to let those things mentioned limit our imagination.

Describe yourself. What would you like to be known or remembered for?

I don’t like to be remembered for anything. I am just a transient body in the world who is trying to do his little part in this short period of his existence.

Your view of nature and the role or influence it exerts on your design. How does nature figure in the final equation of your designs?

I think nature is more than just green forests, rocks, mountains, wild animals and clear waters. Nature has extended itself into our cities in the form of our built environment, streetscapes, stray dogs and “longkangs”. All these and more have influenced me in one way or another. I just let that happen and see where they will take me next. I really have no preconceived ideas at this moment.

What type of materials do you prefer to work with?

I don’t have any favourite materials as commonly perceived by others. I just use whatever is appropriate at the time of construction. I prefer to use local materials and handmade household accessories for the sinks, taps, showers, clothes hangers and so on to help extend on our craft tradition.

Whose works do you admire? Any architectural/interior/landscape design role models whom you look up to?

I used to have a lot of heros and architectural role models but more and more, I am finding inspiration in ordinary people’s lives and the environment that they live in. So the roles of my heros are diminishing as I am being re-educated on the aesthetics of the third world that I operate in. It is almost no longer relevant for me to talk about role models now.

Where do you get your design inspiration from?

I honestly do not know. Sometimes they come from a dream. Other times, it is just through my interaction with the sea of humanity through my wanderings in this world. Occasionally, it comes via Facebook or Twitter.